Category Archives: Parks Passport Posts

November Stamps: 1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi….

Davis Bayou-001
Davis Bayou in Gulf Islands National Seashore is one of 19 new Passport locations in Mississippi this month.  Photo credit: NPS.gov.

 

Eastern National has released its list of new stamps for the month of November, and its a big month for the State of Mississippi.

For starters, the Gulf Islands National Seashore has two new stamps:

  • one for Opal Beach in Florida, and
  • one ofr Davis Bayou in Mississippi.

These two additions give the park a total of 10 stamps available to collect.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore is primarily known for pristine white sand beaches on coastal barrier islands in the Florida Panhandle and coastal Mississippi.  (Interestingly, the park does not include any lands in Alabama in between the two.)   Opal Beach is one of those gorgeouse stretches of white sand, on the eastern end of Santa Rosa Island, just outside of Pensacola, Florida.

In addition to the beaches, however, Gulf Islands National Seashore also preserves some of the natural coastal habitat on the mainland.   Davis Bayou is one of these areas, located just outside of the park’s secondary visitor center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

The State of Mississippi also gets a number of new additions as the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area has decided to add  18 new Passport cancellations.  These new cancellations will join the existing stamp for “The Mississippi Delta” available at the Heritage Area Headquarters at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.   The new stamps are as follows:

  • Bolivar County
  • Carroll County
  • Coahoma County
  • DeSoto County
  • Holmes County
  • Humphreys County
  • Issaquena County
  • Leflore County
  • Panola County
  • Quitman County
  • Sharkey County
  • Sunflower County
  • Tallahatchie County
  • Tate County
  • Tunica County
  • Warren County
  • Washington County
  • Yazoo County

Based on this list, it seems likely that each of these new stamps will be located at the local County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in each of the counties located within the Heritage Area, all in northwest Mississippi.  This is a not-uncommon arrangement for Heritage Areas participating in the Passport Program, as there is a natural desire to spread participation out over all areas included in the Heritage Area’s partnership program.   For what its worth, I’m not particularly a fan of that arrangement.   I would much rather have seen the Heritage Area pick out the dozen-or-so most-significant places in the Mississippi Delta, regardless of county, than distribute them evenly.  For example, a stamp at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi would  be much more meaningful to met than simply making a stamp for Coahoma County at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.   Still, these new 18 passport stamps will take passport stamp collectors throughout a part of the country that many of them would probably have been unlikely to visit otherwise – which has always been one of the main points of the program.

The Mississippi Delta NHA is one of three national heritage areas in the state of Mississippi.   The Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area has 20 stamps in the southern part of the stamp, and the Mississippi Hills National Heritage Area has just two stamps (so far) in the northeast part of the state.

Finally, there were two other new major stamps.   One was for the newly-dedicated American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, DC, which is part of the catchall National Capital Parks unit of the U.S. National Park System.   The other is a new stamp for Great Smoky Mountains Naitonal Park and Bryson City, NC.   Bryson City is the gateway to the Deep Creek area in the northwest corner of the park.

With these new additions, that now takes us up to 1,939 activie Passport cancellations available.   Slowly closing in on 2,000!

 

 

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How National Heritage Areas Fit into the National Park System

The list of new stamps for October inspired me to write a little background post on National Heritage Areas.

A National Heritage Area (NHA) is one of several partnership programs managed by the National Park Service.  All National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress, and apply to a specific geographic area, usually an area of multiple counties.  A National Heritage Area generally does not have any sites that are directly manged by the Naitonal Park Service.  Instead, each National Heritage Area authorization also designates an official “partnerhip organization” that will work with the National Park Service to develop projects and programs within the geographic area of the NHA.   The projects and programs developed within an NHA can include things like historic preservation, development of interpretive displays, educational outreach projects,  resource conservation, and tourism promotion.  The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is the industry association for the various NHA partnership organizations around the country.

Like many things in the National Park System (and in fairness, like many things that originate in Congress), designations are not always done consistently.   Although the vast majority of NHA’s carry the name National Heritage Area, such as the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area in northeastern Alabama, several other designations abound.  The very first National Heritage Area, the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor in northeastern Illinois, was designated 30 years ago in 1984.   Around a half-dozen other NHA’s go by the designation of national heritage corridor, although there is no distinction between that and a national heritage area.   Several others have unique designations including the National Coal Heritage Area in south-central West Virginia, the National Aviation Heritage Area in and around Dayton, Ohio, the Great Basin National Heritage Route in Nevada and Utah, and the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership along the New York-Vermont border.

Just as there are a variety of designations, National Heritage Areas can vary greatly in size and scope.  The Wheeling National Heritage Area consists of just the city of Wheeling, WV, tucked in to a sliver of land between Pennsylvania and Ohio.  On the other hand, the Gullah-Geechee National Heritage Corridor stretches along the Atlantic Coast from southern North Carolina through South Carolina and Georgia and into northern Florida.  The Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area is particularly unusual, covering the all civil war sites across the whole state of Tennessee.   Go figure.

Similarly, when it comes to the Passport Program, the 49 National Heritage Areas are all over the map.   Currently, 9 of them don’t have any Passport stamps at all.  One of those is because the partner association for the Heritage Area went out of business.  Another originally put two passport stamps in regional visitor centers, but later decided to discontinue the visitor center operations and focus on other activities.   Two others of those nine offer a picture stamp, but which unlike traditional Passport cancellations, does not have a date in the center.  The other five have all been established within the last ten years and have simply never participated in the program.

Of the remainder, 21 National Heritage Areas have either just one stamp located at the headquarters offices or a central visitor’s center, or else have just two stamps.

That leaves 19 National Heritage Areas that fully participate in the Passport Program with cancellations available at multiple locations in the area.   Even here, there is a broad range.   The Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area in south-central Alaska has three locations.   By contrast, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area in New York State has a whopping 67 Passport cancellations – enough to fill the North Atlantic section of a traditional blue Passport book more than three times over!

Suffice to say, National Heritage Areas come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and flavors.  At their best, National Heritage Areas bring in to the National Park System areas that would not otherwise be suitable for direct management like the National Park System.  A great example of this is the Motorcities National Heritage Area in eastern Michigan, which includes many of that area’s world-class automotive museums.   Among those is The Henry Ford Museum, which is on many people’s bucket list, even without being Parks Passport completists.   The downside is that since National Heritage Areas operate via local partnerships, and without direct management by the National Park Service, they sometimes fail to provide the consistent visitation experience that we have come to expect from out-and-out national parks.

With that being said, I am strong believe that the National Park System, and by extension, the Passport Program, should include all of the United States’ most-significant natural, historical, and cultural sites.  The National Heritage Area program is at its best when its bringing some of America’s treasures into the National Park System, even though they will probably never be suitable for direct management by the National Park Service.   The National Park System is a better place when it includes the Motorcities, the Erie Canalway, and Niagara Falls – all of which would surely be worthy for inclusion in the National Park Service based on their national significance alone, but which either do not lend themselves easily to a traditional national park, or else are already being well- managed by outside entities, or both.

As Congress has become more budget-conscious in recent year, there have not been any new National Heritage Area designations since 9 were designated in 2009.   Both the career staff of the National Park Service and the Government Acountability Office have called for Congress to establish a stronger vision for what a National Heritage Area should be, and what the criteria should be for establishing such an area.   The rapid proliferation of National Heritage Areas in the 2000’s, in which 31 out of the 49 National Heritage Areas were established between 2000 and 2009 probably represented too-fast growth.    Nevertheless, the National Park System and the Passport Program would have some clear missing holes without them.

 

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New Stamps for October

The calendar has rolled over to October, and the folks at Eastern National have made their monthly announcement of new Passport Cancellations.   This month there are four new stamps, all for the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership.  The Parternship  covers the region surrounding Lake Champlain in New York and Vermont, and is one of the current total of 49 National Heritage Areas.

The four new stamps for the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership are:

These four stamps join the existing stamp for the Gordon-Center House, which serves as the heritage area’s headquarters in the town of Grand Isle, Vermont.

These four new locations are not particularly surprising additions to the Passport Program for this Heritage Area, considering that thus far they only had a stamp for their headquarters.  These new stamps will take Passport collectors out into some of the sites in the heritage area.   The Lake Champlain Visitors Center is the regional tourist information center in Ticonderoga, NY at the southern end of Lake Champlain, and was perhaps the most-obvious Passport location candidate.

Meanwhile, the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge is located at the northern end of Lake Champlain, on the border between Vermont and Canada.  It is one of the only Federally-managed facilities in the Heritage Area, and so was also logical choice for a Passport cancellation.

The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum is located a bit north of Ticonderoga on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain.   It is the sort of regional history museum that is always a prime candidate for a Passport cancellation in a National Heritage Area, as these are the sorts of partners that National Heritage Areas are almost seemingly designed to promote.

Perhaps the most-surprising choice of the four is the Art Museum located at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Plattsburgh – which is on the northern end of Lake Champlain on the New York side.   However, the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area in Iowa includes a Passport Cancellation at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, where you can view the world-famous painting, American Gothic.  Meanwhile, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, just to the south of the Champlain Valley in New York State has several stamps at art museums, including one at the art museum on the campus of SUNY New Paltz (and another that was formerly located on the campus of SUNY Purchase.)  So locating a National Heritage Area Passport cancellation at an art museum is not unprecedented.   However, I’ll be interested in learning more over the coming months as to why this particular location was selected.

Finally, its worth noting that surprising by its omission is Fort Ticonderoga.   Fort Ticonderoga was the site of a significant Revolutionary War engagement in the Saratoga Campaign, so it arguably is of sufficient significance to merit outright national park status.   However, it is currently privately owned and operated, so its possible that the necessary partnership agreements have not yet been worked out.

With the addition of these four stamps to the Passport program, there are now, by my count, 1,935 available Passport cancellations.

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New Passport Stamps for September 2014

In addition to trying to visit all the U.S. National Parks, I’m also a big fan of the Passport to Your National Parks program.   In fact, I am not entirely sure which idea came to my first – trying to visit all the U.S. National Parks or trying to collect all the cancellations in the Passport Program.  The two goals, at least back when I started, really seemed to go hand-in-hand… by trying to collect all the passport cancellations, I would naturally visit all the national parks in the process, and vice-versa.

The Passport Program is sponsored by Eastern National, Inc. – which is the non-profit cooperating association that operates the bookstores for many of the national park sites in the eastern United States.   Since many of the national parks in the eastern U.S. lack the publicity of a Yellowstone or a Grand Canyon, the passport program was initially conceived as a way to promote visitation to all of the national parks, both large and small, both famous and off-the-beaten-path.

Each month, Eastern National releases the list of new Passport Cancellations.   This month there are four of them:

    • Cape Lookout National Seashore | Beaufort, NC
    • Independence NHP | Franklin Court Printing Office
    • Erie Canalway National Heritage Area | H.  Lee White Marine Museum
    • Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom | New Castle Court House Museum

By my count that brings the total number of passport cancellations in the program to approximately 1,929 active major cancellations.   Obviously, with only 401 national parks, that works out to many more than one cancellation per national park!   That’s in part because larger parks may have multiple cancellations for different locations throughout the park, and other parks may have special cancellations available for a specific anniversary celebration, such as the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War.

For example, this new cancellation brings Independence National Historical Park up to 8 available active cancellations.  7 of them are in downtown Philadelphia:

    • Philadelphia, PA (at the main visitor center)
    • Liberty Bell
    • Franklin Court (where a museum stands on the location of Ben Franklin’s former house)
    • Benjamin Franklin Museum
    • Franklin Court Printing Office (where the National Park Service has restored Ben Franklin’s print shop for working demonstrations)
    • Declaration House (where Thomas Jefferson did most of the writing for the Declaration of Independence)
    • Old City Hall (which was used by the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791-1800 while the U.S. Capitol was in Philadelphia

The eighth is for the Germantown White House, which is a house in what was in the 18th century then-suburban Germantown.  President Washington stayed there to escape a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia during Philadelphia’s time is the national capital.

While Independence National Historical Park includes dozens of other buildings in downtown Philadelphia, perhaps the most-notable thing about this list of passport cancellations is that there are now three stamps for Benjamin Franklin, as well as a stamp for the Liberty Bell, but no specific stamp for visiting Independence Hall – the iconic centerpiece of the park itself.   Go figure!

The new stamp for Cape Lookout National Seashore is not surprising as they just opened a new visitor information center in the Beaufort, NC Town Hall, which was the former site of the post office there. This cancellation gives Cape Lookout four active cancellations:

    • Beaufort, NC – as mentioned above
    • Harker’s Island, NC – the park headquarters, main visitor center, and primary ferry departure point to Cape Lookout itself are all here
    • Light Station Visitor Center – this is the main visitor center on Cape Lookout itself, it is only accessible by ferry
    • Portsmouth Village – it actually takes two ferries to reach this remote location, a place that is legendary for the epic number of mosquitoes on the island!

The other thing which boosts the total number of cancellations is that the National Park Service does much more than simply manage the U.S. National Park System.   In particular, it operates a number of partnership programs, including National Heritage Areas, which opens the Passport Program to other sites that aren’t themselves national parks..

The new location for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area gives that program 27 total cancellations.   Of those, four are located at national parks located within the Erie Canalway National Heritage Area.  The other 23, like the H. Lee White Marine Museum, in Oswego, NY are other historic sites that are not Federally-run, but participate in the Passport Program through the National Heritage Area partnership program with the National Park Service.

Finally, the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom is yet another partnership program.  In this case, special Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom passport stamps are given to any of the 401 national park sites that tells the story of slavery or emancipation in some way, shape, or form.  This site is going to the New Castle, Delaware Old Court House Museum, which is part of First State National Monument.  The Old Court House was the site of a famous trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn, who were convicted of working as stationmasters on the Underground Railroad in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act.    This cancellation brings the number of active and available Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom cancellations to 26.

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